#StrongerTogether:  Donovan Carrillo, an Olympic dream reached with his family

Being the first Mexican in 30 years to compete in figure skating at the Olympic Games wouldn't be possible for Donovan Carrillo without the inspiration and the help from his parents.

By Marta Martín
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

The #StrongerTogether campaign 2022 message can be summarized by this motto: “Every rise, every fall, every victory, we’re in it together.”

When we believe in each other, we can make the unbelievable happen. Belief from others inspires belief in ourselves; to make that leap, land that trick, to push to the finish. Through every rise, every fall, every victory.

This exactly fits the past and the present of Mexican figure skater Donovan Carillo's dream, and how his family inspired and helped him to reach the Olympic Games.

Choosing a winter sport in a warm-weather place like Mexico, which has few traditions on ice, is something special and brave to start with. But Carillo, now 22, has gone beyond that - he is the first Mexican in 30 years who will compete in figure skating at the Winter Olympic Games Beijing 2022.

He took up the sport when he was eight years old, and the journey until reaching the Games 14 years later has not been an easy one for the Mexican skater.

"Choosing figure skating wasn't common in my country. When you are eight in Mexico, you are into football. Fortunately I realized very quickly that football was not for me. I had two left feet, I was very bad at it," a smiling Carrillo says in the Olympic Channel original series episode, Winter Tracks, which tells his story.

Family ties: Inspiration comes from home

His family has been a basic pillar in this journey, despite the numerous - and common - critics outside the rink.

"Despite receiving a lot of criticism for practicing an artistic discipline, I never allowed those comments to affect my decision," Carrillo said. "Thanks to the help of my family, I managed to ignore the comments which were not helping me grow and I stopped giving them importance. I only focused on doing what I like, which is skating."

Another hurdle Carrillo had to pass was finances. He needed money to dream, as his parents realized that figure skating is not a cheap sport, especially in a country with limited infrastructure to support it at a high level.

In fact, Carrillo trains on a public ice rink, in a shopping center.

"For us, the most difficult thing was our finances. We had to consider the option of withdrawing the kids from skating for a month because, as I would tell Goyo [Gregorio Núñez, Donovan's coach], we couldn't afford the ice skating lessons," remembers Carrillo's mother, Diana.

However, all their efforts paid off.

“Everything was difficult, but I think it's been worth it. There's no money, but we have happy children [Donovan and his older sister]," adds Adolfo, his father.

Donovan Carrillo: Olympian with big dreams

Donovan's Olympic dream started at home. His parents lit that flame.

"Reaching the Olympic Games is priceless," he said. "Since I was a child, my parents taught me what it means to be at the Olympics and that not everyone has the chance to be at this level. Having that in mind made my Olympic [qualification] even more valuable."

In order to make his Olympic dream real, Donovan had to move in 2013 from Guadalajara to León with his coach, Gregorio.

"When I left home to start this journey, it was very hard for both my parents and myself," Carrillo explained. "We suffered a lot due to this separation. And although we try to stay in contact via phone, video chat, it is not like being present there."

A four-time champion in Mexico, Carrillo secured his Olympic berth by placing 20th at the world championships in 2021, one of the qualifying events for Beijing 2022.

The years and years of effort leading up to that moment has included a career in figure skating for Carrillo, and the work fulfills what he calls “the dream of a young boy who never gave up."

But better again: Not only a dream of his own, a dream he shared and reached with his own family.

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